by Polly Festa, Livestock Manager
To quote Charles Dickens, “Cows are my passion.” I have been passionate about cows ever since I was a toddler, when my parents would place me in my playpen in the barn while they milked our herd of purebred Jerseys. This was the way of life growing up on a 60 cow Dairy in Upstate New York. While most kids would talk about their pets–dogs, cats, and the ilk–I would talk about my cows. I love all animals, but cows always have been and always will be my favorite.
Why would an animal that has the reputation of being dumb and lacking personality be my favorite animal? Because that stereotype of the cow could not be further from the truth. She is not dumb and lacking personality at all; she is smart with loads of personality to spare. I have seen cows figure out how to turn on water spouts and open gates. They know how to tell time, though not as we do. They know when it’s feeding time and will let you know if you are a minute late.
One question that I am often asked is “How do you tell them apart?” This question has come up more since I started working at the Accokeek Foundation and our cows are all red. While there are slight physical differences between each cow, it is their different personalities that shine through that really help me tell them apart.
Maura is bold as brass, whereas Tare is shyly cautious about the world. Cherry couldn’t care less about my ideas on what she should do; she’s her own cow. Liz and Jessica are the two grand ole dames of the herd.
Lynn is motherhood personified. Luda puts on a tough front, but it’s all bluff. Patty is the lug mouth and Mary Gertrude is the social butterfly. Bliss and Loin are explorers in this great big world. Rocky and Bullwinkle are just two ordinary blue collar working guys.
Mercy is the wallflower, and Bully Bull is the class clown. Lorelei and Jujubee are the teenage girls at a slumber party. Every day with this herd is like watching a reality TV show, only better. THIS is why I love working with cows.
Written in Memory of Mary G. Ferry, the lady who taught me everything about cows.